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4 stars This is of course the indispensable companion to ''Band Of Gypsys''.

This double album offers some great live music moments. They were performed at the Fillmore East during New Year's eve and New Year's day. Four concerts in two days.

This testimonial is made of bits and bytes of the four concerts played. Maybe that one day the whole of these concerts will see the light, although it seems that they were maybe not good enough to be released as such (one can get this feeling while listening to the second CD).

Needless to say that the first CD is almost perfect: brilliant set list, fantastic performance (even if here and there some improvisations don't belong to the best ones like during ''Stone Free'' for instance). Still, the opening track (which opened the last of the four concerts) is an excellent start.

The version of ''Power Of Soul'' featured here is superior to the one from ''Band Of Gypsys''. Almost heavy for most of it, it shows a great rhythmic section and a wonderful spirit of unity. Not too bad after a short rehearsal time.

The next song is one of the greatest of the man: '' Hear My Train a Comin''. This song was not released in a studio version while Jimi was still alive (but it will be featured on a posthumous effort: ''Midnight Lighning''). Needless to say that this live version is way better. A formidable orgy of eclectic guitar and maestria. But this was business as usual for the master.

The enchantment goes on with ''Izabella'' (even if the sound is not top notch here, especially at the start of the song). The song is well known from the Woodstock concert (it is featured on Woodstock II). The studio recording will also be posthumous (''War Heroes'' released in '72). It is a vigorous rock moment: speedy and screaming guitar. Perfect.

Another highlight of this double CD set is IMHHO, the version of ''Machine Gun''. An hymn to peace and anti-Vietnam war. A huge heavy blues number. Jimi really makes his guitar turned into a machine gun. But he used us to such extravaganza / maestria already while he was imitating the bomb sounds during his great Woodstock performance. This is a legendary moment of the rock history. No more, no less. But probably difficult to digest for a Hendrix profane (especially the second half).

The trip to heaven goes on again with ''Voodoo Child (Slight Return)''. It is one of my all time fave from the man. This version is just as brilliant as many others. If rock does speak to you, you should really try and listen to this one.

It flows into ''We Gotta Live Together'' which is introduced by Buddy Miles. I have to say that it is my least favourite track of this CD (actually, I don't like it). A soul/funk tune which is mostly a pretext for audience participation.

But to be honest, this first CD is extremely good and belongs to the best live ones Jimi has ever released.

Also to be honest, it has to be said that the second CD is not on par with the first one. It has a more soul approach (''Changes''). Fortunately, there is a long version of ''Machine Gun'' which is illuminating this second CD. Almost fourteen minutes of violent and poignant guitar parts. This version is even superior to the one featured on the first CD. The atmosphere is very oppressive during the second half of the song and should be a perfect soundtrack. A highlight really.

The rest of the CD is a little disappointing (''Burning Desire'') even if ''Earth Blues'' is again a powerful song very well interpreted. The master displays a brilliant guitar part again. The rhythm is incredible. In one word: excellent. The cover of ''Wild Thing'' also deserves a mention.

For those of you who might be interested, here are the set lists for each of those four concerts:

December 31st, 69 (first show): Power Of Soul, Lover Man, Hear My Train A Comin', Changes, Izabella, Machine Gun, Stop, Ezy Ryder, Bleeding Heart, Earth Blues, Burning Desire

December 31st, 69 (second show): Auld Lang Syne, Who Knows, Stepping Stone, Burning Desire, Fire, Ezy Ryder, Machine Gun, Power Of Soul, Stone Free, Sunshine Of Your Love, Message To Love, Stop, Foxy Lady, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Purple Haze

January 1st, 70 (first show): Who Knows, Machine Gun, Changes, Power Of Soul, Stepping Stone, Foxy Lady, Stop, Hear My Train A Comin', Earth Blues, Burning Desire

January 1st, 70 (second show): Stone Free, Little Drummer Boy, Power Of Soul, Changes, Message To Love, Earth Blues, Machine Gun, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), We Gotta Live Together, Wild Thing, Hey Joe, Purple Haze.

Four stars for this live testimonial.

Report this review (#211111)
Posted Sunday, April 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Despite the original "Band of Gypsys" album was a contractual obligation for Hendrix, I think that he was a very good judge of his own material to select the best live versions of the songs included in that album. So, in my opinion, the original "Band of Gypsys" album has the best material from those concerts. I have this opinion after buying and listening to this "Live at the Fillmore East" album, compiled by engineer Eddie Kramer and released in February 1999. This album has five of the six songs included in the "Band of Gypsys" album (the only one not included was "Mesage of Love"), in different versions, with the exception of "We Gotta Live Together", which was only played once by the band. The version of this song included in the 1970 album was heavely edited by Hendrix who wanted to include two songs composed by Buddy Miles in that album. The version included in in this 1999 album has a lenght of almost ten minutes, and it semes that the original version even lasted a few more minutes, so this 1999 version is still an edited version. The version of "Power of Soul" is a bit different. The two versions of "Machine Gun" are also a bit diferent. "Changes" is also a bit different. "Who Knows" is an almost four minutes version, not better than the one included in the 1970 album.

It is interesting to hear some songs originally recorded with the Experience ("Stone Free", "Voodo Child", "Wild Thing") being played instead by the Band of Gysys band. These versions sound a lot influenced by SoulFunky and Rhythm and Blues musical styles. Drummer Buddy Miles played the drums with a lot of power. Obviously Billy Cox is a very good bassist. So, three very good Black musicians playing obviosuly with the very good musical style and feeling that only Black musicians have.

Some of the rest of the songs were songs which Hendrix was planning to record in the studio for his next studio album. But he died before he could release these songs on albums, so the songs were released in posthumous albums, with the CD called "First Rays of the New Rising Sun" (1997) including some of them. Some of these songs are very Progressive in arrangements (particularly "Stepping Stone", "Earth Blues" and "Burning Desire"). "Stop" is a cover of an old song but sung by Buddy Miles.

In conclusion: while the "Band of Gypsys" album has the best performances of this band from these concerts as Hendrix selected them very well then, this "Live at the Fillmore East" is a very good companion to that album, and it still is a very interesting album which gives me the impresion that the band rehearsed basic parts of the songs, and that in the concerts Hendrix gave to himself and to the band the freedom to experiment and improvise to play the songs in different versions whcih also sound very well. The three musicians sound like understanding very well each other`s playing, so it was very easy to improvise and experiment during the concerts. This is a very good album, which also includes very good booklet notes (written by John McDermont). and a lot of photos. It was a very good buy for me, and not expensive (two CDs for approximately ten U.S dollars, 121 in Mexican pesos).

In the present, only Billy Cox is still alive from this "Band of Gypsys" band. Buddy Miles died in early 2008.And I also read recently that Mitch Mitchel died in November 2008. So, the three original members of the Exprience are now dead (Hendrix, Mitchell and Noel Redding).

Report this review (#231303)
Posted Thursday, August 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Jimi Hendrix just wanted to play. And through all the accomplishment, extraordinary success among both peers and fans, and a singular artistry that is sometimes mistaken for novelty, it is clear that what he was really interested in was a choice riff and a good time. Hendrix was one of the only guitarists of his era that progressed internally as an instrumentalist, not just via the gifts of a talented ensemble. And yet as a sensitive kid he endured the pain of troubled parents, a society wherein you could be shot for playing music while black, and the unenviable choice between prison or military service. But he always had an ax. Even when his father refused to buy him one, Jimi rummaged a single-stringed uke until it fell apart, eventually bought a five-buck acoustic and when he couldn't be heard over bandmates, finally tucked-in to a Supro Ozark 1560 S.

But, as is often the case with brilliance, greatness was not evident right away. Jimi Hendrix had to uncover the now all too obvious: The electric guitar and amplifier were tools of sonic art that hadn't even been scratched at with any high amount of gravity, and he began to see and hear what others couldn't seem to. Brits will sometimes facetiously suggest Hendrix was theirs, that somehow because his popular rise was backed by Englishmen the Hendrix legacy belongs to London. Yeah, no; not when his finest moments were with the dazzling if misspelled A Band of Gypsys-- old cohorts Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. Further, the notion that Jimi had been pressured to have an all-black group is specious. It ain't true. The chemistry with Cox & Miles was just better, it always had been, and that counts.

A stickler for being in tune and yet as loose-handed as anyone, a fearless adventurer who, unlike Jim Morrison, could stop leaping into the fire when it burned too hot, Jimi, we hardly knew ye. So I was thrilled to have cornered the long deceased grand legend late one night in a bustling backstage at a Los Angeles nightclub, his first interview with the Living since his death in September, 1970. People of all sorts traipsed back & forth through the narrow backstage anteroom just outside the small greenroom we sat in; frantic roadies, groupies consoling other groupies, nervous managers, the lightshow people panicking over a broken liquid-slide projector, deadbeat vendors getting kicked out, a lone photographer struggling for a good shot, all generating a familiar din that said rock 'n roll. As we began speaking, James Marshall Hendrix took on a warm expression and his eyes widened, bringing me in.

A - Is this all for you?; I mean do they know you're here tonight?

Jimi - I dunno, man, it's just some good energy. It's just happening, y'know --

A - I recently caught some video of you at the Fillmore East shows in '69/'70, video I didn't know existed, taken from the balcony. It was illuminating to see footage of you perform without the florid camerawork that prevailed in concert films then. I noticed how being a left-hander may've influenced your sound, do you know what I mean?

Jimi - Yeah yeah, totally, they say it shouldn't make a difference, left or right, but it does, yeah.

A - Your left hand, the picking hand, was reverse-positioned, almost contorted, much like left-handed people write and draw, and it seemed to allow you a fluidity perhaps inaccessible by other players.

Jimi - Y'know I always kinda noticed that but never put it into words. Right-on, man, now spark that doob in the ashtray.

A - On it. When you add your upside down guitars that were standard strung for a lefty, your hand size with that thumb coming over top to mute an unwanted low E & A, your reach, plus having started on a ukulele, it all must've impacted your style.

Jimi - Yeah it all must have, but, you know, it could've been other things too. We're all so tugged and tapped and moved in life, it all makes a difference. Angles, man, it's in the angles (takes a huge drag on the fattest joint I've ever seen, holds it in, and exhales in a loud tumble of hacking and coughing).

A - The Band of Gypsys project was more than just a heavy blues/funk-rock trio out to fulfill a contract, was it not?

Jimi - It turned into something much more special than the three of us had expected. Our interpersonal connection, the depth of understanding and musical brotherhood we had was unique. You can hear that in our shows. That was a great band.

A - Far tighter and more serious than the act appeared. It was only later when I began to listen carefully to all the shows from New Years Eve 1969, or Berkeley, etc., that I began to hear what you guys were doing and how tight it actually was.

Jimi - I know, some people thought we were sloppy I guess. But no, not for what we were doing. We were all in, baby, a blues revelation, you know? You couldn't stop us, we could play anyone under the table that year.

A - Let's talk about the New Years Eve 1969 material not included on the Band of Gypsys LP, released later as Jimi Hendrix Live at the Fillmore East. I'm sure it's a thrill to see live but If you'll forgive me I'm gonna skip past twelve minutes of 'Stone Free' and jump to 'Power of Soul', a nice sample of the killer riffage that was spewing out of you guys at the time.

Jimi - This should'a opened the record, or I should say we should've opened with this one, 'Power of Soul'. It's a good warmup for us and them, the audience.

A - That modulation up a step, I love that.

Jimi - Yeah see that's the thing; it's just a two fret change-up but because the context is hard blues, it works. It's unexpected. And then this kinda lazy 'Train 'a Comin'. Tone, it's all about tone, brother. Can't do nothin' without tone. It's everything. It feeds, provides, it pulls out. It pulls me out, you know what I'm sayin'?

A - I think so. You were meticulous about being and staying in tune, a near impossibility considering the intense palpitations you put your guitars through. If you'll forgive me, how were you able to do that?

Jimi - 'Cause I had to. And a lot of time performing with electric guitars. You do what you have to; I was reaching here, there, I was tweakin' the bar any way I could, warping the neck, palpating. See-- 'Isabella' better, it sounds better, so we played it better, so it is better.

A - And a beautiful, more concisely powerful version of your classic 'Machine Gun' than appears on Band of Gypsys. Were you happy with this performance?

Jimi - This is the first time I've heard it, this set from those shows.

A - Really? I'm amazed. How does the tone strike you?

Jimi - I like it, it's quieter than the Gypsys album version, more room to work. It's a great tune to reshape, rework, like a living sculpture that's never completely finished.

A - Those divebombs are kick-ass - -

Jimi - (smiling widely) You're a real fanboy aren't you?

A - (blushing) Yeah, sorry. The anti-war message is clear, not so much anti-Vietnam War as almost an embracing of war--

Jimi - Well yeah, I didn't want to run away from it, the combat, the violence, I wanted to show it. To give an abstract impression of war, you know; the sounds, ugliness, it was a heavy time. You had to face it and that's how we did it.

A - And 'Voodoo Chile' -- you correct yourself there at the start, wrong key?

Jimi - (laughs uproariously) I forgot about that, hilarious. I don't know what I was thinking.

A - But you actually do remember that flub?

Jimi - Oh yeah, I wasn't so high that I couldn't hear a mistake. By now the acid was kicking in, though, so you know it was all in fun.

A - So you were tripping that night?

Jimi - F*ck yeah.

A - Syd Barrett told me playing while on LSD is almost impossible. Did you find that as well?

Jimi - That's why I put it under my headband, slow easy release, but yeah he's right. It's a bitch if it hits you all at once.

A - 'Who Knows' from the second set, December 31, 1969, different from the familiar version.

Jimi - Less energy, but it's alright I guess. Not my favorite version.

A - A stylish 'Them Changes', a Buddy Miles tune, a good bopper.

Jimi - Yeah it's a fun track. Why not, y'know?

A - And a massive, nearly 14-minute 'Machine Gun'. Awesome, man, I mean your studio records get all the praise but c'mon, this is magical, dark and wonderful, otherworldly stuff.

Jimi - That's what it was supposed to be, to evoke. Yeah, right on, I hear you. It's a heavy trip with this song. Not even a song.

[ * with this he took another several deep tokes on the now smoldering joint and slowly exhaled through his wide-set nostrils]

A - I swear I hear you say "Obama" several times in this; A premonition?

Jimi - (after several moments of uncontrollable laughter) Maybe, man, maybe, I wouldn't be surprised. A lot of magic that night, that band. Then 'Stop', that's a Jerry Ragovoy tune, good little track. Fun to play, and kind of a nice break after a long set.

A - Which it was: what, four sets over two nights? Pretty intense.

Jimi - Yeah, but we loved it. And we wanted to give the people their money's worth. "Earth Blues" good too. Some nice stuff here. Good to hear after all this time. "Burning Desire" kinda shows how improvisational we could be, but we'd gotten so tight, tight-but-lose, it was hard to tell sometimes what was spontaneous and what we'd planned. But that's cool.

It certainly is.

Report this review (#1591211)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2016 | Review Permalink

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